Student in need of critique on typography

Hello everyone!

I am an engineering student, currently learning graphic design as part of a hobby and also as a means to earn some money on the side. I hope to be able to do some paid freelancer work by end of Jan 2022. As part of this I was going through a Coursera course in order to understand the basics since I’m a total beginner at this.
This is one such assignment.

The assignment instructions were to use 5 typefaces in order to describe an object (here, a watch) in 5 different ways. I’ve added a small description below each typeface for better understanding. I don’t know how good or how bad I did so I’d like some feedback.

Thank You!

I spent four years working on a BFA in design with another two years in graduate school studying typography and publication design. After that, it took me about five to ten years working in various agencies before I had learned enough to confidently take in work from my own clients.

You, on the other hand, want to compress a big chunk of all those years into a month and a half by taking an online course. I wonder if Coursera offers an online engineering course that would enable me to do some paid engineering side projects by the end of this next January?

Oh, well.

That aside…

Is the assignment to match the personality of the typography with the description of the word watch? In other words, are you attempting to spell out, for example, the word watch in a typeface that suggests a premium watch or a professional watch (whatever that is)?

If so, the assignment is way too subjective to provide any definitive feedback.

I probably wouldn’t use Garamond Bold to convey a premium personality, but I suppose it’s doable. Then again, the Rolex logo looks a bit cheap to me, but it’s a good example of how logos take on the personality of the brand’s broader image, despite how they might look as a separate entity. Completely beside the point, but I’ve never figured out why anyone would spend thousands of dollars on a watch that doesn’t tell time any better than a hundred-dollar watch.

The Bodoni- or Didot-like typeface you’ve used to represent classic is part of a broad category of type design called “modern.” Of course, “modern,” in typographical terms means something different than it does in other uses.

You know, I don’t like this assignment. Why use the word watch to spell out something? Why not spell out the word premium in a typeface that conveys a premium personality? Why not use a business-like typeface to spell out the word business? Who knows? Maybe I’ve misread your assignment.

Anyway, I wouldn’t use Helvetica caps to denote business or professional. To me, it has more of a generic, off-the-shelf personality — especially when set in all uppercase.

As for the minimalist example, most any typeface with its roots in the grotesque, geometric faces of a hundred-plus years ago will look minimalist. If you use a typeface with skinny strokes, it might even look more minimal. But like everything here, that’s entirely subjective. I probably wouldn’t use an italic face, though.

Using a blackletter typeface to denote the Guttenburg period is sort of obvious.

You really should pay more attention to your kerning, however. When the type consists of one big word, there’s always room to adjust the spacing between the letters (kerning) for a better, more even fit and overall color.

You beat me to it. Why is that attitude so prevalent in our industry (a rhetorical – and more than a little exacerbated – question)?

First of all thank you for detailed feedback! I’d like to clarify that this is more of a hobby for me rather than a career choice. I have many interests and through this I’m also trying to figure out what my passions are. My current aim is to be just good enough in order to earn some money as a freelancer. Freelancers jobs are initially set at 10$ and then you work your way up. I do realize that the deadline I’ve given myself might be too unrealistic, but I feel that if I don’t do this I’ll constantly procrastinate and never get anything done.

Side note: Ever since the pandemic hit and people started WFH jobs, people have actually been getting internships (for engineering too) and in some cases full time jobs through online courses of around 6 months, as long as you are currently pursuing a bachelors degree.:wink:

1 Like


Yes the assignment was to do exactly that.

Since watches are usually associated with formal settings, I did think that a watch would make you look more …professional, i guess?? I hope you get what I mean.

Since you have many years of experience, I’d like to ask you this, are there any specific exercises you did (that I could do myself) while trying to learn typography that helped you in a significant way later on?

Also, since there are so many fonts out there, how do you group them into broad categories for different uses?

Yes, but all the assignments were critiqued in class, which wouldn’t be doable in your situation.

Coincidentally, I just mentioned the other day how during my second year of undergraduate work, we were required to fill an entire large page of layout paper with meticulously traced words from magazines and newspapers each week. I must have tediously traced thousands of words during that year, but it gave me a lifelong appreciation of the care that goes into designing a typeface. There were lots of other assignments too, similar to the one you described, but as I said, without the critique (where the real learning occurs), they might be pointless to do on your own.

Graduate school was different. I was designing entire typefaces there and working with the faculty on experimental stuff with type in publications.

For me, I don’t categorize them. Most experienced designers settle on a handful of go-to fonts. Everything else is a one-off thing for a particular purpose. Beginners are typically the designers who want to use every typeface they run across. Massimo Vignelli was notorious for insisting there was rarely a need for any typeface other than Bodoni, Century Expanded, Garamond, Times, Futura, and Helvetica if I remember right.

As for the formal classification of typefaces, there are old-style, modern, slabs (Egyptians), transitional, geometric, humanist, blackletter and uncial, script faces, novelty faces, etc. Most designers, however, just pick the typeface with the personality needed to complement the task at hand (which was the whole point of your exercise). Most people only casually familiar with type probably stop at sans-serif, serif, and script or handwriting fonts.

And there lies the rub. Unfortunately, this is what is driving nails into the coffin of the industry. It drives down both expectation and quality.

‘Why should I pay you thousands, when I can get a logo from for $10?’

‘Why should I pay thousands for a titanium torsion bar, when my mate can knock one up for a $10 in his shed?’

Because, in both cases, the wheels will fall off. A lack of knowledge and experience is not good for clients, designers or the industry as a whole.

I am not meaning to sound negative. It is great, you want to learn and enjoy a hobby, but unfortunately, the design industry remains unregulated, so there is no way to ensure a level of professional quality is maintained, in the same way there is in engineering. You simply couldn’t go into business ‘knocking up’ cheap mild steel torsion bars in your shed without getting into very hot water. They would have to be tested, certified, etc, etc. no such regulation exists in our industry.

As with many things, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. To really know what you are doing, you need a good degree from a reputable university and five years experience, or the same amount of years being mentored by a good company, before being let loose on paying clients.

Competition sites are not a good thing for anyone involved (apart from the people running the site) and are just a race to the bottom, I’m afraid. I know it looks like I am simply pouring cold water on your plans, but that’s not my intention. I’d say look deeper into what is involved in brand design before trying to sell attractive looking logos to unsuspecting clients, who hope it will solve their business communication needs.

I’ve been at this for 30 years now and I have only scratched the surface – especially when it comes to typography.

Thank you for this! Ill keep this in mind for the next time I design something

Yes, I see what you mean, but for me personally, I don’t really have many other options. I’ll be definitely following your advice regarding brand design. Thank You

I go to a college which also does offer B.Design. Because of the pandemic I was not able to visit my college so this did not happen sooner, but with my college opening in a few days I will be able to visit and talk to professors and other experienced folk and get critique…(as long as it does’nt close again…with the new variant and all)

©2021 Graphic Design Forum | Contact | Legal | Twitter | Facebook